Monthly Archives: October 2012

November Writing Experience: Gratitude in 100


Hey team –

I am grateful for you. Even if you pop in every once in a while. Especially if this the first time you’re here.

Many of you swing by without saying a word and that’s kewl. But I’d love to hear from you.

So… I have this idea:

November means Thanksgiving around these parts and so I want to do a writing experience; I’d say “contest” but I don’t have a prize for anyone and my being a child of serendipity and equality, there is no such thing as a “perfect” submission. What I would like to do is collect all your submissions and put them in one blog post that I will publish on the day before Thanksgiving and you all can feel connected with one another through your expressions of gratitude. If you don’t participate with a submission, you will be able to participate by hearing all the expressions.

Here it is:

  • 100 words or less about what gratitude means to you. Not what you’re grateful for (like an iPod or the last seat on the bus), but what it means. Writing this is meant to be introspective and candid: (show, don’t tell). It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to be lyrical, it just has to be original and what you want it to be. A poem, a string of nouns or verbs… up to you. Oh, and it has to be not disgusting or obscene. Any weirdness in that regard will not be tolerated. If you wish to remain anonymous, I will treat you as such.
  • 10 words which describe you (remember, you don’t have to give your name).
  • An image of you or what best features your summary.
  • Your website or blog or way for others to reach you if you are interested in providing it.

Send your submission to me at by 11pm Monday, November 19. SHARE THIS POST if you wish!

Thank you for playing along. I can’t WAIT to read and see what you come up with!


After the Storm

After the Storm

I said in my last post that I wasn’t going to be blogging as much. And I still might not blog as much.

But it’s hard to hold to that today, the day after Hurricane Sandy devastated the east coast, and shut down New York, the city that never sleeps.

We here in the D.C. area had been prepping emotionally and practically for days for this storm. Buying extra water, perhaps power generators, extra food. There was no bread or milk to be found nearby. Costco, COSTCO, was out of bagels.

©NBC News.

I made jokes about it; this is what we do when we’re terrified: laugh at danger, try to seem glib and wry.

Looking at the images of Sandy on the weather radar was humbling enough.


This was last Thursday, four days before landfall. Just so we’re all on the same page here… if you could trace that storm with a pencil and then move it over the continental United States, you’d see that it is AS BIG as the country. I think that’s what people are not thinking about…

Hearing the forecasters discuss her impending wrath and how D.C. was likely where she’d make landfall, was distracting at best and deeply concerning at most.

This was yesterday at 9:10am eastern:

I’m captionless. NASA images.

I live about 2.5 hours from the Atlantic coastline. The Chesapeake Bay, which is large enough and warm enough to have attracted this storm, is about an hour away.

This house in Pasadena, MD, is about an hour away from me. The person who lived here lives no more.

Sandy was about 350 miles in diameter with winds of 90mph.

The winds and weird weather that precipitates a hurricane began about a week ago with the heavy humidity, off-feeling temps, lack of breezes, almost like an eerie cosmic inhale and then stalkerly exhale breezes on the same day. Foggy mornings, cool nights, then warm mornings and oddly uncomfortable daytime weather.

I hail from the Great Lakes. I love to talk about how Lake Erie is so calm and gentle. Not yesterday:

NBC News.

The fam and I hunkered down in our basement, several feet below the ground from any impending tree’s fall. It’s very dark down there, I call it “The Bunker” because you can’t hear anything while you’re there other than the television or the house’s heating system.

Last night in The Bunker, just before I decided it was time for everyone to join me, I heard wind. It sounded like what I think was probably a 15-second long, 75mph gust rip up our street. I heard that easily and clearly when the TV was on.

This morning, my phone woke me at 7am. I programmed it to only vibrate to text messages, otherwise ring for calls or emergency notifications. Vrrrr. Vrrr. Vrrr-rrr. VrrVrrrr-VVrrrr.

I rubbed my eyes and swiped it on. My phone had blown up with texts from friends and family wondering how we were doing. We are fine, thankfully.

She’s fine too, now. ©NBC News

Checking in online, I went to Facebook to hear about my friends and family. Then to Twitter. Oddly, the online world was living life as normal and I wanted to shut it down, shut it all down. I wasn’t and don’t feel sorry for myself. Not in the least: I am grateful to be alive and KEENLY AWARE that I am.

©NBC News.

My muscles hurt from holding in the tension, trying to be strong. I feel like I’ve been holding up a sofa for days.

When I saw some of these tweets, from people all over the place, and mostly from people I don’t know, all I could think was this: You don’t understand, you don’t get it, you want to vapidly tweet about your coffee and your missing keys and halloween and shopping for shoes, and manicures and bikes and the election and what the hell to make for dinner and complain about your iPhone 5 and your cable service and tell me again and again and again (some of you people, get a clue…) to buy your frigging eastern european BDSM thriller eBook (which probably wasn’t edited and likely sucks) and ask about which shoes are best for babies who can’t sit up and are too young to walk, and tell me which GMO foods to avoid when there are people who are dead, dying, terrified, homeless, overwhelmed, sad, lost, bankrupt, sick… I can’t take it today. I just can’t.

A surveillance camera captures flooding in a PATH station in Hoboken, N.J., shortly before 9:30 p.m. on Monday. ©NBC News.

So when someone innocently and appropriately tweeted about whether she should blog I thought, kindly and sincerely “yes, go ahead because the world goes on and this is how life is.” I get it.

It’s not wrong to not be “In My World” — a little emotionally hungover, feeling vulnerable, scared, twitchy, slightly guilty that I still have power, feeling slightly guilty that my house is OK and that my loved ones are still alive. I get it — do your thing because that’s what needs to be done: the world must go on.

But me…? I’m more than just a little hungover here. I feel more like how one does after a wedding rather than after Christmas. All the preparation, planning, keeping in touch with family, trying to stay UPbeat for the kids:

Children must always be as children are. I love this little girl’s spirit. ©NBC News

(swear alert) The fact that this motherfucker of a storm killed several dozens of people and devastated coastlines has sorta taken a toll on me — given me perspective to not really give a crap about what anyone else is tweeting about other than the concern and consideration for the people devastated:

This is a street sign. You know, the ones that are 9′ high? Yeah, one of those.

And undying gratitude for being still alive and for the power line workers:

These people are badasses. I don’t wanna hear ANYONE complain that they took too long. GET OVER YOURSELVES.

Go ahead and tweet pictures of your cappuccinos and blog about your rage against your neighbor who won’t pull in his trash cans.  But don’t expect me to empathize. Not today. And you know what… probably not ever.

So how about it Internet, how about it Facebook? How about it Twitter and Instagram and Tumblr and StumbleUpon: how about a goddamned moment of silence, huh?

Not yet…? How about for the people who lost one of those 50 homes in the fires in Queens, NY? How about now?

Thank you.

Monthly Wrap-Up, Blog Changes and Housekeeping

Monthly Wrap-Up, Blog Changes and Housekeeping

Hi team – thank you so much for reading today.

I have some announcements.

1) I just spent two hours trying to figure out a way to say this: I’m gonna be posting less often here, probably twice a week, max. I’m averaging 17 posts a month for the past few months and while it’s fun, I really need to winnow back and decide what I’m all about here. How unusual for a writer to be having an identity crisis. I know, it’s so banal. 

I’m smart: I don’t have a ton of followers, so my even making this an “announcement” is sorta… well, fancy:

2 archaic (of a drawing, painting, or sculpture) created from the imagination rather than from life.

I’ve said all along that this blog is really for me to post my observations and for my kids to have something after I’ve left this world, so I’m anchored, although it’s hard to ignore the draw that comes with watching the blog stats modestly rise along with the number of my Twitter followers. In the final analysis, none of that means anything if I’m not actually writing a book or being a mom or a balanced, healthy person. It means I’m living in La-La Land, and I don’t like my neighbors here. I also don’t know if I am into all the networking; my kids are still young and they need me, especially the teenager. So I’m really reassessing how to best use my writer brain.

I am who you think I am: random, mindful, vulnerable, candid, authentic, introspective and hopefully clever. But if any of you happen to believe a word I say, I must adhere to my definition of my prosaic and practical self: I am genetically a writer and gratefully a mother. I also happen to write a blog.

The rub: the blogging world is a wonderfully loose and random place where anyone can write about anything. While that has been good for gaining practice and confidence, it yields nothing toward my long-term actual writing-a-book ambitions. But, I’m a communicator, so I love blogging too. Admitting all this, instead of riding on some sheepishly embarrassing fantasy that my content is ever viral will allow me to work smarter not harder. Look, it’s not like I don’t have any pride or confidence, I do, so this isn’t about me not believing in me. It’s about me believing in me so much that the me I’m dealing with right now is sorta… lost.

As I said to a friend the other day,

Since I was a very little kid, I’ve ambivalently worn the mantle of The “Person who knows” the best ___, the way to ___, or how to find ___. I can’t tell you how backhandedly wrong that was to do to me because one day, like today, I won’t know the best ___, the way to ___, or how to find ___ , and and I’m gonna feel like a failure. So when it comes to figuring out who I am as a writer, I’m like… well, I’m like someone in that marching band in the parade scene at the end of Animal House: I’m about to crush my trombone because Stork has led us all down an alleyway and into a brick wall so that D-Day can ram the Omega Theta Pi house’s parade float. The bottom line is that burden was never mine to have been saddled with. For parents, there’s a distinction between empowering your child and just being too lazy to do it yourself.

Despite the singe of what I said to my friend, I’m good and I’ve moved on.

This decision comes as I’m realizing that all the fanning on Facebook and Twitter and StumbleUpon isn’t gonna really change things. And I’m putting the cart before the horse: I’m marketing, “creating a platform” (as it’s known in the biz) for something that hasn’t happened yet. Here’s what I know I’m good at: promotion. I can and love to promote anyone and anything. But what am I running away from? Writing. The long-term kind of writing that makes you go mad, makes you sit still and face your fears. So: what creates change? Change.

This decision is buoyed by a timely post written by the inimitable Kristen Lamb and then seeing a Twitter post by August McLaughlin regarding their thoughts about trimming their own sails. I hope I can keep it together and stay on this course. My challenge is this, I’m a little ADD-esque: when the thought strikes me, I write it and then you get it. But this habit can be refined.

As for writing a Big Book, I don’t know if I’ve got the chops for that. I fancy myself more of an essayist or short story writer, so I need to cast aside some demons that are suggesting the epic tome-turned doorstop: just because other people do it doesn’t mean I have to. I sense many writerly people are dealing with a lot of pressure in this world to somehow matter — it’s very odd and hard to articulate — as if just being happy with what you’re doing isn’t enough: you have to be a NYTBSA and if you don’t know what that means, I’m sorry… we just can’t talk anymore. Here’s your coat. (It means: New York Times Best Selling Author.)

And… I would also love to hear from you about what you’d like to see me do…

So I know I’ve got your support and understanding. This “situation” has a lot of layers and I also need to be careful that I’m not creating some form of chaos for myself. So, I’ll be figuring it all out over the next few days… decades.

2) October has been the month of guest posts around here – I’ve both hosted and guested (is that even a word?!) and because we’ve got a hurricane bearing down on us here in D.C., I don’t know if I’ll be online at all next week other than from my phone, which I can assure you: will not be used for blogging. With November on the horizon, here is a wrap-up of what happened around here, please check out these posts if you’re so inclined:

  • Sensitarian posted about the day she learned she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • DeBie Hive shared what fall means to her in gorgeous pictures.
  • I posted over at Good Geek Ranting about my confusion over his blog’s title my new driver’s license photo – this was a hilarious post if I do say so myself.
  • Then I hosted the lovely and amazingly networked Lillian Connelly who guest posted about how she painted a rooster for me.
  • Then I posted on DeBie Hive about the meditative aspects of rowing. I wish I could say the post is mostly photos, but I felt that rowing requires a technical explanation so, I gave that as well. Seeing those pics I took two weeks ago on that gorgeous day reminds me how much I miss the water, kids.
  • If child safety is important to you, or you have kids who walk to school or see kids who walk alone, this post was HOT: 65 FB shares, 105 views in only 8 hours (which is a lot for me!) and then it stayed high for a couple days. Please check it out and share it if you are interested. I never ask for that (I feel my writing should stand on its own, so I don’t ask people to LIKE me or SHARE what I do… I can’t tell you how insalubrious I feel that is), but I did this time because the message is important.

The funny thing about guest posts: even though I’m not writing them, they’re actually hard to work around because you have to upload pictures and synchronize “shares” and the like. I know… you don’t have to get out of the trouble you don’t get into, but I love guest posting. It’s good for us all.

3) I am thrilled to share with you that I have been invited to join a multi-author writer’s blog, “Peevish Penman,” where they posted an interview I did. Go here: and you’ll find I’m my usual candid self. I find it ironic that I’m there because I’m nowhere near where some of these other authors are: published, but they seem to like me and my random, candid ways… the poor dears. I will always link to what I publish there.

Which brings me to my next point…

4) NaNoWriMo is ramping up next week, on Thursday to be exact. So I’m planning to be involved there writing another book. I’m very excited about the idea that I will be amongst hundreds of thousands of people around the world who will be drinking too much coffee, obsessing, gnawing on pencils, pulling out hair, banging on desks and forgetting to shower for 30 days straight, well: we must be clean for Thanksgiving. I hope to really do something with this upcoming book because I’m doing it from start to finish, as I should have done the first one but I wrote 25k extra words to make it a legitimate 50k as the challenge requires, so the tone and treatment should be consistent… save for some unavoidable hormonal burps along the way.

Would you like me to post about it as I go along?

5) Last but not least, Hurricane Sandy is indeed near. It’s odd here because the temperature outside has dropped from 65˚ this morning to 53˚ now which is NOT normal for hurricanes around here. Usually, it is warm, humid and very still until the bitter end… that said, keep your fingers crossed for us here. Thing 2 who is 11 is pretty scared and so we’re keeping the news off but checking the weather from our phones.

Despite the storm, as usual I laugh at life and so I want to share this parting thought with you:

Well, they just announced that schools are closed tomorrow and Tuesday due to the storm. Great. No, really, this is good but … well… here we go!

Thank you.

Holiday Shopping Guide: Fjord Games – (Pleh. That’s a Crappy Title…)

Holiday Shopping Guide: Fjord Games – (Pleh. That’s a Crappy Title…)

So I hope this post is mostly photos with amazingly witty captions. I’m in a mood, peeps.

Yesterday Thing 2 who is 11 was diagnosed with a sinus infection, poor baby. He’s been handling it well. Better than I do. When I have a sinus infection people hide.

We went to Target to fill his prescription. We had to wait thirty minutes for the people who work behind the desk on the platform elevated about 12″ higher than we are to mix the powder with the liquid. I am not knocking the profession.

But being in Target with an 11-y.o. boy possessed of a vivid imagination means going to the toy aisle which isn’t a toy aisle at all, it’s an entire department. Of course there’s the pink aisle comprising Barbie and supposedly girly toys. Because girls can’t use toys manufactured in primary colors, didn’t you know that? We can’t see anything but lavender, pink, white, buttercream yellow and pale blue. It’s a scientific fact. Plus, anything without opalescent wings or long eyelashes looks like mold and smells like the Kaohsiung Fisherman’s Wharf, in Taiwan… maybe near where the toys are made.

I digress. It’s been a while since I’ve done that. I’m about to go over my word limit goal…

So, while we were in the toy ward, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the board games. I love board games. I love family game night, I even have a rack of board games — many classic and many new but all are fun — in our playroom:

told ya. lots of games.

I’m gonna feel sorry for myself for a moment: I didn’t have lots of kid board games when I was younger. My mother wanted us to be geniuses so we were only allowed games like Scrabble and chess and checkers. I think relatives gave me other games but I thought they were candy, so they didn’t last. That game near the bottom “Stop Thief” is one I remember getting from my aunt; I loved it. It fell apart I played it so much, so when I saw it on eBay for $16,000 I decided I had to have it. My kids love it too, so that’s good. I would feel awful spending $16,000 and having no one play it.

Have you been in the board game section lately? Here’s what’s going on:

Children needn’t learn how to read, just know the S&P 500. And maybe some Monsanto brands…

Cash is dead. Long live plastic and electronic banking. No math skills? No problem! In all fairness, original Monopoly is still available, in the back the shelf behind all the sharp power tools.

Websites become games and games become weird. What is the context? How does one win at this game?! … “Oh! I remember that photo, I saw it on Hal’s Dad’s sister’s cousin’s cable installer’s iPhone…”

MmmmmnnnNo. They want two Jacksons for this?! MmmmmNo. They should put it by the pharmacy. I know: leave a copy in the doctor’s office! “New from the CDC! Everyone! Learn how to track an epidemiological virus to its origins and you win!”… ugh. Prescription to pediatric dosage for Xanax not included but highly recommended. 

And if a website isn’t how you wanna play a game, then let’s go straight to the apps. This isn’t the only one: there’s a game made after Angry Birds and Cut the Rope and Where’s My Water? I mean, why not just skip the smartphone altogether? Right? RIGHT?! Am I the only one seeing a 180˚ here? I know, how about “Angry Birds: The Board Game of Irony.”

When all else fails, buy the German Toy of the Year Award winner, “Ticket to Ride” about a train. In Germany. Over 2 million sold. I’m stopping there. I wonder… do people think anymore?

The Parker Bros must be rolling in their graves. Never did they see this coming: a complete hijack of their beloved Scrabble, renamed and rebranded under a smartphone app. Now it’s cool to play word games with friends, as long as you don’t try playing TEXAS or ZEN or OHIO….

When all else fails, or your book becomes supremely ubiquitous, turn it into a board game. For a Jackson and a Washington, you can have the game now.

Or your Barbie could be stripped of its cute cotton candy colors and turned into a vicious and bloodthirsty diminutive blond vampire. Not surprised it’s on clearance, eh? They should have made her outfit violet.

And just when you thought this game couldn’t get any more annoying, there’s now a “SHOUT IT!” command. That’s a bonus for all you parents out there who think your kids need to get more excited about plastic, batteries and flashing lights.

But in the end…

It’s All Too Much. (Please tell me you get that reference….) 

I titled this post “Fjord Games” because I think some of these games are taking a giant leap across a fjord. What’s the lesson learned from this post? Don’t go to Target with me when you don’t have to and if I have to explain the reason for the title… maybe I should rethink the title altogether.

Told ya I was in a mood…

Thank you.